When, where and how, Scientists think mutant Covid strain began in the UK

Scientists identify when, where and how, they think mutant Covid strain began in the UK

Scientists believe the new variant of the virus may have started mutating in an immuno-suppressed person living in Canterbury, Kent, before beginning its rapid worldwide spreadmirror

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Soldiers deliver Covid-19 testing to lorry drivers in Kent (Image: PA)

Experts have been able to trace the origins of the new mutant coronavirus strain that originated in England’s south east.

The first sample was discovered in a person who lived near Canterbury, Kent, in September, according to scientists.

The new variant has ripped through the UK ever since – prompting Boris Johnson to cancel Christmas rule relaxation plans and plunge England into a third national lockdown.

Countries shut their borders to the UK after the discovery of the new strain prompted fears it would spread further abroad.

The strain has since spread overseas, and is believed to be significantly more virulent than the original variant.

People shop in Canterbury, Kent, shortly before Christmas 2020 (Image: PA)
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It originally began being detected in the south east and London, where infection rates began ramping up rapidly, before spreading everywhere else in the UK.

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Experts and vaccine developers have insisted the new strain is unlikely to be resistant to Covid-19 jabs.

The UK is in a race against time to vaccinate 14million of the most vulnerable in the population by February 15.

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Boris Johnson put the country on a war footing on Thursday as he promised the British Army would help speed up the vaccine programme, delivering ‘hundreds of thousands’ of doses a day.

NHS Chief Sir Simon Stevens told the Downing Street press conference speed was essential as patient admissions increased at the rate of a full hospital a day.

And earlier in the week, the government’s chief science advisor Sir Patrick Vallance warned that it was essential the vaccine march continued apace.

Infection rates in the south and south east ramped up before Christmas (Image: Press Association Images)
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Sir Patrick explained the longer the virus was in circulation, the more opportunity it had to mutate further.

The World Health Organisation has since confirmed the origins of the variant now being described abroad as the ‘UK strain’ – revealing the first sample of the new mutant strain was discovered in Kent on September 20.

Data from the Covid-19 Genomics UK Consortium shows a key sample was found in a location “near Canterbury”.DON’T MISSMum’s desperate Covid plea from ICU after two people died in beds either side of herDearon Thompson dead: ER star known as Deezer D ‘found unresponsive at home’ aged 55Devastated family slams ‘selfish’ teen who murdered boy, 15, to keep relationship secret

Kent Live has confirmed this location relates to information provided by public health agencies about where the patient lived rather than the location of a hospital or lab.

An 80-year-old man receives the Covid-19 jab at William Harvey Hospital in Kent (Image: PA)
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Experts also believe the new strain may have been created by mutating inside an “immuno-suppressed” person over a long period of time.

This means they had a reduced ability to fight off infections and other diseases, normally because of their own condition or illness, such as AIDS or cancer.

Dr Jeffrey Barrett, Director of the SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said: “There’s another case in London from September, so B.1.1.7 (the variant) was present in both places early.

The strain is believed to have originated in a person in Canterbury (Image: Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
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“We don’t know exactly how many cases there were in each place in the early days.” 

He added: “There have been a number of reports of individual patients who have prolonged illness, and in whom a similar pattern of mutations to B.1.1.7 (the variant) arose.

“So there is a hypothesis that an event like this might have been the origin. Some, but not all, of these patients are immunosuppressed.

“It does seem like B.1.1.7 is the first example of a new variant arising in this way that went on to circulate widely.”

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Experts believe the first significant outbreak was in Kent, followed by Medway.

It is then thought to have spread through the London boroughs of Bexley, Greenwich and Havering, before hitting other parts of London and Essex.

The speed of increase in cases caused by the new Covid-19 variant is a key reason touted for tougher restrictions introduced in recent weeks.

Testing at the Port of Dover, Kent (Image: AFP via Getty Images)
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Public Health England has said the Government only realised the scale of the problem when cases continued to rise in Kent and Medway in November, despite the national lockdown in place at the time.

Speaking on December 21, the epidemiologist Susan Hopkins said: “Towards the end of November it was clear that the Kent and Medway region of the country in particular was going against the tide of the national restrictions and was seeing increases, whereas by November 20 almost all other parts of the country started to decline.”

Ms Hopkins explained an initial review looked at whether this increase in Kent was linked to any particular group in the population or workplace outbreaks.

France shuts the border to the UK after the new strain emerges (Image: PA)
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When this proved not to be the case, Public Health England reviewed the genomic epidemiology to look for changes.

Ms Hopkins said: “On December 8 they found that there was a particular variant that had some mutations in the spike protein that had emerged quite rapidly and was spreading not only in the south east but also in parts of London.

“So over the following 48 hours they rapidly undertook an investigation looking at the phylogenetic tree and the clinical details of the patients in which the cases had arisen.

The mutant strain is being blamed for the huge surge in new infections (Image: Press Association Images)

“They wrote an initial paper on 10 December, which was submitted to NERVTAG, and it was that paper that then started the further discussions on further epidemiological modelling and clinical work.”

On December 18, more data was provided to the Government and the next day the Prime Minister announced large parts of the south east of England would go into Tier 4, and ended the relaxation of rule for Christmas.

A random testing sample of people in the South East recently found the new variant accounted for 71 per cent of new cases.

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Published by technofiend1

Kazan- Kazan National Research Technical University Казанский национальный исследовательский технический университет имени А. Н. Туполева he graduated in Economics in 1982

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